Patients must receive palliative care earlier in their disease trajectory, while they’re still in active treatment, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Deb Fischer (R-NE) said. Working in rare bipartisan fashion, in June 2023 they reintroduced the Expanding Access to Palliative Care Act to pay for Medicare beneficiaries to receive comprehensive palliative care services concurrently with curative therapy.

Speaking as a caregiver for her own in-laws, Rosen said, “I am aware of the challenges that caretakers and patients face when trying to access palliative care services” and that through her experience with her in-laws, she identified a need to provide those services much earlier in the course of a patient’s illness.

“As a physician, I have seen firsthand how important palliative care is for the comfort of patients and their families,” Barrasso said, adding that he understands that “making sure patients have access to this care as soon as possible is critical to their quality of life.”

Palliative care has been an ONS policy priority for a decade. Working in coalitions, oncology nurses have testified about the value of palliative care and helped define the differences between it and hospice. Understanding that distinction has helped decision-makers introduce and pass legislation to improve care for people with acute and chronic conditions and better position the healthcare system to provide patient-centered care. The new bill has the potential to change outcomes and quality of life for patients with cancer and their caregivers.